What if there was a magic formula for social media marketing?

A formula that would allow you to snap your fingers while saying “Presto!” and have your audience instantly engaged with your content. Next thing you know, they follow, share, and leave comments.

Well, there is (sort of).

But instead of snapping your fingers, you use scientifically-backed psychological principles to maximize social engagement.

You can think of it as neuromarketing, defined as:

“the process of researching the brain patterns of consumers to reveal their responses to particular advertisements and products before developing new advertising campaigns and branding techniques.”

I’ve been fascinated with neuroscience for a while. Why? Because this stuff just works.

One of my favorite resources to make was the one on consumer psychology:

When I dug into the research, I started realizing people act in predictable ways. And then I realized that certain marketing messages could increase the likelihood of peopling acting in such ways.

Instantly, it made my job as a marketer way more interesting. I began researching all the ways I could apply these principles to blog articles, ad spend, videos, and, yes, social media.

By understanding a few key cognitive processes, you can drive social engagement and increase the effectiveness of your overall social media marketing campaign.

Here are some specific strategies you can implement right away.

The halo effect

This term halo effect originated nearly 100 years ago in 1920, when researcher Edward Thorndike conducted a study where “two commanding officers evaluated their soldiers in terms of their physical qualities (like neatness, energy and physique) and their mental, emotional and social qualities (like intellect, leadership and responsibilities).”

“Thorndike found that, if one of the soldier’s qualities was rated highly, the other qualities tended to also be rated highly, and vice versa.”

How does this relate to social media marketing?

It’s very simple.

If you establish your brand as having one positive trait, consumers are more likely to believe that your other qualities are more positive as well. In other words, they subconsciously form a positive bias.

Here’s an example. Say you build a reputation for posting top-tier, high-quality, thought-provoking articles on Twitter.

In turn, your audience views your brand as being more intelligent and competent.

This should spill over into other areas, and your audience will be more likely to think of your products/services and customer service as being high-quality as well.

The bottom line is that if you can kill it in one area, it’s easier to improve your overall public perception and thrive in other areas.

Consumers are more likely to trust your brand and will be more inclined to engage with you on social media.

Post what’s most commonly shared

What’s one of the primary goals of posting content on social media?

To get people to share it with their friends and followers.

But posting content blindly, without any rhyme or reason, is like throwing darts blindfolded. You’re just hoping and praying that something hits the target.

Fortunately, there’s a shortcut to maximizing shares.

All you have to do is post what other people share the most.

According to a study from a well-known market research company Ipsos,

“Global citizens who indicate they have shared some type of content online on social media sites in the past month seek primarily ‘to share interesting things’ (61 percent), ‘to share important things’ (43 percent) and ‘to share funny things’ (43 percent).”

Understanding people’s sharing habits drastically increases your chances of hitting your target and boosting social engagement.

This isn’t to say that every single piece of content you post that’s considered interesting, important, or funny will be wildly successful, but this does give you a general framework to build on.

Here’s a more detailed graph that provides even more insight into social media users’ sharing habits:


If you wonder what type of content is most likely to resonate with your audience, this graph can definitely help guide your efforts.

Give your audience something free

Here’s another psychological tactic you can use to your advantage.

Give away something your audience deems as being valuable, and they’ll feel indebted to you.

This phenomenon relies upon the concept of reciprocity, which says that humans feel inherently obligated to repay someone when that someone does them a favor, helps them out, or gives them something.

And this doesn’t have to be anything huge.

I’m not saying you have to give away a fifty-dollar-product to your social media followers to get results.

It can be something quite small as long as it’s legitimately valuable.

Here’s a great example:

Anytime Fitness gave their Facebook followers a free downloadable calendar to plan and monitor their exercise activities to ensure they met their fitness goals.


You could give away an e-book, whitepaper, month-long subscription, or anything else your audience would find valuable.

This simple yet effective technique subconsciously makes people want to return the favor, which can come in the form of more followers, more shares, and positive publicity.

Use social proof to create leverage

Peer pressure doesn’t disappear after high school.

Even as adults, we’re susceptible to it to some extent.

You can use peer pressure to your advantage from a psychological standpoint by creating social proof.

If you’re unfamiliar, social proof is defined as “the concept that people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior.”

The premise is quite simple. You find ways to prove to potential followers or customers that your brand is awesome.

It follows then that when people see that others are digging your brand, they will feel they should too. Luckily, social media is an ideal medium for creating social proof.

Here are some specific ways you can maximize social engagement:

  • Try to get an industry expert to link to one of your blog posts on their profile.
  • Post a picture of a notable figure or celebrity using your product.
  • Encourage customers to share photos of your product.

Here’s an example of when a Snapchat celebrity Shaun McBride (a.k.a. Shonduras) let Taco Bell take over his Snapchat account to promote the launch of their Cap’n Crunch Berry Delights.


These are just a few ideas, but the possibilities are nearly endless.

Just look for ways to have others give your brand a collective nod of approval, and your engagement should grow along with your leads and conversions.

Incorporate nostalgia

As someone who grew up in the 90s, I get a little sentimental when I think about things like the original Nintendo, Goosebumps books, super soaker water guns, and Nickelodeon’s green gak.

It brings back fond memories:


Whether the past was actually as good as we remember is irrelevant. The majority of people look back at yesteryear, and their childhood in particular, through rose-colored glasses.

What does this mean from a social media standpoint?

It means that incorporating nostalgia into your campaign can significantly increase social media engagement.

Robert M. Brecht, Ph.D., wrote an article explaining the effectiveness of nostalgia in marketing.

According to Brecht,

Marketing research clearly shows a positive resonance with both nostalgic ads and the products advertised. It even shows more persuasive influence on customers.

He also made reference to a specific study and said that:

It indicates that when consumers experience nostalgia in a consumption context, they have a higher purchase likelihood with regard to the advertised products.

If you can incorporate nostalgia into your social media marketing, you can trigger a powerful psychological response, which should translate into higher engagement levels.

For example, you might jump on the #throwbackthursday hashtag on Twitter and post something that’s retro.

Or you might post pictures on Instagram that show what products in your industry looked like 20 or 30 years ago.

There are many different avenues you can take with this approach.

Create scarcity

One of the greatest fears for most people is the fear of missing out (FOMO).

We naturally want to “be in,” and the thought of missing out on something epic scares us.

That’s why the scarcity principle can be so incredibly effective.

After all, why do you think there are so many companies that use terms such as “while supplies last” or “limited time offer?”

Here’s an example that proves the power of scarcity brilliantly. A study by “researchers Worchel, Lee and Adewole asked participants to rate two jars of cookies. At first, both jars contained 10 of the exact same cookie.

Then from one jar, eight cookies were removed (making them more scarce). Now participants had to choose between the jar with 10 cookies or the jar with only two left.”

The jar with only two cookies was chosen much more often than the jar with 10 cookies.

In other words, scarcity sells.


If you’re really looking to boost engagement, create scarcity.

Make it abundantly clear that if social media users don’t take action immediately, the opportunity will be lost forever.

For example, you might have a deal where people who “Like” your Facebook page will be entered into a contest to receive a prize. But they have a limited amount of time to do so.

This tactic will trigger many people’s FOMO response, and they’ll take action.


Psychology is a social media marketer’s best friend.

There are several psychological principles you can implement into your social media campaign that will drive engagement and elicit a response from your audience.

This is important because it helps you get the most from your efforts and ensures the content you post doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

By providing a bit of motivation and encouragement, you can build a more engaged audience that’s highly responsive.

The long-term benefits?

More follows, comments, shares, and, ultimately, more quality leads coming to your website.

How much of a role does psychology play in your social media marketing?

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